India’s 1328th species of butterfly was seen and photographed in Rajasthan six years ago. It has been declared so by Bhimtal-based Butterfly Research Centre, and validated by Wildlife Institute of India.
There were 1,641 species and subspecies of butterfly in India until 2006. In 2015, the number came down to 1,318 and with 10 more species added since, the number is now 1,328, said senior scientist, Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, VP Uniyal. The 1328th species is new to India, he added.
Spialia Zebra, the butterfly species that is normally found in Pakistan, was photographed at Sangwara in Rajasthan’s Dungarpur district on November 8, 2014. Mukesh Panwar, a government schoolteacher with interest in ecology, saw several of these between 1.20pm and 1.57pm. He sent one specimen to Bhimtal for identification and research.
The Bhimtal institute took six years to declare it the 1,328th species. The butterfly species has also found place in a paper in BIONOTES, the journal edited by Dr RK Varshney, a former Zoological Survey of India scientist, and published by Entomological Society of India, New Delhi, and Butterfly Research Centre, in its July-September 2020 issue.
“The butterfly is difficult to observe because it is quite small and flies rapidly low over the ground,” the paper said. “The species was first seen in [what is now] Pakistan in 1888. It has been seen for the first time in India,” said Bhimtal centre’s director, Peter Smetacek.
He said it was for the first time that S. Zebra had been seen more than 1,000km south of its natural habitat in Pakistan. The centre catalogued 1,318 species of Indian butterflies in 2015. “The one seen in Rajasthan’s Sangwara is 1,328th species, according to our records,” Smetacek said.
The butterfly species has been found in Margalla hills in northern Pakistan.
Panwar said he has been working on butterflies for over 15 years. “I saw this species at a farmhouse and clicked its pictures, which were sent along with a specimen to Bhimtal for identification,” said Panwar, who has seen and identified 111 species of butterflies so far.
The Rajasthan forest department, Rajputana Society of Natural History and Vagad Nature Club organised state’s first butterfly festival in Sangwara in February 2018.
The country celebrated the big butterfly month in September for identification of butterflies and raising awareness about conservation of these bio-indicators.